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Groundwater Depletion

When groundwater is pumped from an aquifer there may be negative consequences such as salinization or subsidence of the ground surface.

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Conserve Now, Farm Later

Conserve Now, Farm Later

Credit: NASA
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Crops_Kansas_AST_20010624.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

These green circles are seen everywhere across Kansas and the other Great Plains states. Irrigation water from the Ogallala Aquifer is sprayed on the fields. This region feeds the United States and other nations with corn, soybeans and other crops.

Why It Matters

About 30% of the groundwater used for irrigation in the United States comes from the Ogallala Aquifer. Without this water, the Great Plains states would more resemble a desert than the lush farmland they are now. Water has been collecting in the Ogallala Aquifer for hundreds of thousands of years. As Ice Age glaciers melted, the aquifer filled. Without a good plan and the will to stick with it, this aquifer may be depleted within decades.

Show What You Know

With the links below, learn more about the Ogallala Aquifer. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What happens to water that rains onto the ground in Kansas?
  2. How does the recharge rate compare with the rate that water in the aquifer is being used?
  3. If a Kansas farmer wants keep his soybean yield at the level it has been for the past few decades during a drought how will he get the extra water?
  4. What are farmers in the region attempting to do to increase the life of the Ogallala Aquifer? Why are do they want to do this?
  5. What are some of the ways that the farmers could achieve their goal in #4 above?
  6. How do scientists make predictions of how long the aquifer will last?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: NASA; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Crops_Kansas_AST_20010624.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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